Friday, August 12, 2016
The Joy - Toni Brown & Terry Garthwaite (1977)
Never released on CD and long out-of-print, this is a one-off reunion album for Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite, the leaders of the San Francisco-area band Joy of Cooking. The pair were among the first women to lead a major label rock group, and if you don't know their story, I'd recommend reading this very comprehensive article first.
From 1970-73, Joy of Cooking released three albums and scored a minor hit with "Brownsville," a cover of an old blues tune. Since those LPs have been reissued on CD, I'm not posting them here.
However, I am posting albums that are out-of-print. Earlier in the year I blogged about Toni Brown's two little-known solo albums (see links below). And now that I found a clean copy of this reunion LP, I've decided to do a rip and post about it.
Although it features Brown and Garthwaite, it's far from a Joy of Cooking album which is probably why they renamed themselves The Joy for the occasion. Instead of the other band members, this album has session players and high-profile guests, like Elvin Bishop and Taj Mahal. (Check the high-quality scan of the back cover for the full rundown of who played on this LP.)
Brown and Garthwaite had already done a duo project with their 1973 album Cross Country (which has also been reissued on CD). But for that album they played with Nashville session players and turned in a set of all-original songs.
This one has a mix of covers and originals. Here, they take on some songs by famous songwriters (Van Morrison's "Come Running") and a few by not-so-famous ones (Judy Mayhan's "Wrap the World"). Some fare better than others and overall the LP isn't as good as any of the Joy of Cooking albums.
They left room for six originals. That might not be as many as on the old Joy of Cooking LPs, but when they're good they're really good. Coming in first is Brown's "You Don't Owe Me Spring," an ethereal jazz-influenced Smokey Robinson-like number that might just be the best thing she ever wrote. And sang. Positively gorgeous.
Coming in a close second is Garthwaite's gospel-influenced "Steal Away," which boasts some great chord changes and a big, anthemic chorus. Joy of Cooking never had much success in the singles department, but with a few tweaks, this might have had hit potential.
Speaking of tweaks, Brown and Garthwaite made a bunch of 'em to their sound. Between the last Joy of Cooking album and this one, both had released solo album that found them moving into different areas like jazz and country. This album brings out the jazz side and has a much glossier sound than their previous earthy group efforts. That's likely due to the precision of the session players.
A remake of "Beginning Tomorrow," which was originally from the third Joy of Cooking album, shows how they tidied up their sound. This adult contemporary take of this pensive ballad was more upbeat and breezy than the original. It was also released as a promotional single, but must not have generated much interest because it doesn't seem to have turned up as a regular old 45.
The single that was actually pulled from this album was Brown's "Morning Man," her ode to an early-hours disc jockey. It was an odd choice for a 45 in 1977, since it's basically a blues song with eccentric lyrics. It also didn't chart.
Besides some live reunion shows, this would be all she wrote for Joy of Cooking. The group put out an after-the-fact odds'n'ends collection titled Back To Your Heart in 2008. If you like this band, it's definitely worth getting.
Toni Brown - Good For You, Too (1974)
Toni Brown - Toni Brown (1979).
1. Come Running
2. You Don't Owe Me Spring
3. On the Natch
4. Feel Like Heaven
5. Till Your Back Ain't Got No Bone
6. Morning Man
8. Beginning Tomorrow
9. Steal Away
10. Wrap the World